There are many ways of caring for someone who has advanced cancer. One of the most basic is simply to enjoy their company holding hands, watching television together, listening to music, playing cards or reading aloud to them. However, caregiving can include so much more.

The Importance of Touch

Sometimes when you cannot find words, a squeeze of the hand or a gentle hug can say just as much. Touch is a powerful way to communicate. It can help feelings of loneliness and isolation and can show how much you care.

Giving Physical Care

You may have to give more of the physical care once given by nurses and other healthcare workers. Here are some types of physical care you might need to learn:

  • Bathing: help getting in and out of the tub or shower, sponge baths in bed.
  • Lifting and moving: help getting into and out of a bed or chair, moving cushions and turning or rolling over in bed.
  • Toileting: help getting onto and off the toilet, helping with use of bedpans, incontinence pads and catheters.
  • Mouth care: help with brushing teeth, keeping lips moist, rinsing the mouth.
  • Hair, skin and nail care: washing and drying hair, moisturizing skin, trimming nails on hands and feet.
  • Giving medication: keeping track of timing, dosages and storage of medicines, including pills, liquids, ointments, sprays, suppositories or injections.

It is important to get help and training when you need it. Hospitals may have pamphlets, guides and other information available for you to take home.

If necessary, a home care nurse, physiotherapist or occupational therapist may be able to show you how to perform important tasks. They can also provide support over the phone. If physical care is becoming too much for you, consider using home care aides, nurses or personal care workers. Depending on your situation and where you live, you may have to pay for these services.